Sushi is a popular Japanese dish that is enjoyed the world over. Connoisseurs and neophytes alike often think that the term is synonymous with slices of raw fish. Contrary to popular belief, however, it does not actually mean raw fish or uncooked seafood. Instead, the term refers to the vinegared rice that may or may not accompany the thin slices of raw seafood served at sushi restaurants. The correct term for raw seafood is sashimi.
Sushi is often divided into five basic kinds.
The most common types and the ones most people are familiar with are the maki and nigiri sushi. Maki sushi often consists of a layer of rice, seaweed, and fish or vegetables rolled into a cylinder, usually with the aid of a makisu or bamboo mat. The roll or log is then cut into appropriate widths. The thicker rolls are called futomaki, the thinner ones are known as hosomaki, and the inside-out rolls are termed uramaki. The California roll, the Boston roll, and the spider roll are some of the well-known examples of this kind.
Nigiri is made by topping vinegared rice with a dab of wasabi and a thin, bite-size slice of either egg, fish, or other seafood. The egg is always cooked, but the fish and the seafood may be served raw. Fish usually used in this type include various types of tuna, salmon, eel, and mackerel. When eating it, be careful that you do not dip the rice side into the soy sauce, as it may fall apart. Dip only the fish side. Alternately, you may opt not to dip the sushi in the soy sauce at all.
Temaki sushi is also often called a hand roll. This is similar to maki, except instead of rolling it into a cylinder and slicing it, the sushi is rolled by hand into the shape of a cone. It is not sliced but rather is eaten as is.
Chirashi sushi is not often seen in restaurants outside of Japan. It refers to a bowl of rice topped by a selection of sashimi or raw seafood.
Inari Sushi is even more uncommon. It is fried pouches of tofu stuffed with rice.
An order of sushi usually comes with a small bowl of fermented soy sauce, a dab of wasabi or Japanese horseradish, and a side of pickled ginger. You may or may not mix the wasabi into the bowl of soy sauce, depending on your tastes. The pickled ginger is supposed to be eaten between bites, as a way to cleanse the palate.